In the Western world, I think that the Arab1 people are a bit mysterious to many who have not gotten to know them. There are cultural and religious differences between many Arabic people, differing from both Christian and secular worldviews in the West, and – let’s be honest – unless those in America (those who don’t have an Arabic background) take some time to get to know Arab people as friends, there’s a lot that is not understood…or worse, much that is mis-understood. (It’s one thing to live in ignorance, not being willing to learn more; however, it’s far worse to remain ignorant while thinking – incorrectly – that one has all of the answers.)
One evening, I was reading through the story of the message that Jesus’ disciples (including Peter) shared at Pentecost. This happened shortly after Jesus had been raised from the dead, appeared to many people, and then returned to Heaven. Acts 2 relates a list of the different people groups who were hearing a message from God, spoken in their own language.
Although I had read or heard this passage many times, in this case, one of the people groups who heard this message at the very start of the church caught my ear:
Cretans and Arabs-we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
Acts 2:11 NASB
Did you see that? Arab people heard God’s message on Day 1 of the church’s existence! It makes sense that Arabic people would have lived close to Jerusalem, and some would have been near the temple for a variety of reasons. Still, I can’t help but wonder if God – who inspired the writing of the Bible – intentionally made a point to share the great news about Jesus with Arab people. Jesus personally taught in a relatively small region of the Middle East, but He planned for His message to very quickly reach out to other people groups.
In addition, I think that this is also an example of how God continued to bless the children of Ishmael, who was the son of Abraham the patriarch. God blessed Ishmael with a promise to make his descendants into a great nation:
God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.”
Genesis 21:17-18 NASB
Even more so, though, God blessed the descendants of Ishmael with the opportunity to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of the existence of the church – the Body of Christ.2
While God chose the line of Isaac as the ancestors of Jesus, He blessed all people through Jesus’ life, example, and death.
For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
Acts 2:39 NASB
So, in conclusion:
God’s message to the Arab people…is the same as His message to everyone else!
This message includes the following (which each of us can read, as if they were addressed to us personally):
- God loves you. (see John 3:16)
- God doesn’t want you to remain separated from Him. (see Matthew 18:14)
- God’s followers cross all sorts of boundaries. (see Galatians 3:28)
- God wishes to adopt you into His family. (see Galatians 4:1-7)
- God is perfect, and you are expected to be the same; not just “more good than bad”. (see Romans 3:19-26)
- God understands that you haven’t lived up to that, but He loved you so much that He paid the price for the consequences of your actions. (see 1 Peter 2:24-25)
- God asks that we accept this gift – the sacrifice of His perfect Son, Jesus (who is also God – both separate persons and the same God) – in order to restore our relationship. (see Romans 6:22-23)
- God expects that we show our love for Him by obeying Him after that, but not as a means of earning our salvation. (see John 14:15, 1 John 3:4-6)
Whether or not you read this article as a follower of Jesus, if you are not of Arab descent or culture, I hope that you will take the time to get to know at least a few people (or maybe some families) from that heritage. Learn about the rich history of this people group, and celebrate what you have in common.
For those of us who are not from the line of Ishmael, may we show the same love to Arab people (and those of every other nation, tribe, and people group) as God did. Every person falls short of God’s goal, but He offers each of us a relationship with Himself, through Jesus. May each of us be a part of that blessing to the Arab people, and may they find fulfillment in the relationship that God seeks with every person.
And, if you are an WordPress author who considers yourself to be Arab, and if you write about your culture, I’d love to follow your posts and learn more (as long as you publish in English – I’m afraid that my multi-lingual skills are woefully lacking!).
- There are a few ways to define who an “Arab person” would be, but I’m most comfortable (as I think many who consider themselves in this demographic would agree) considering them to be the descendants of Ishmael (son of Abraham), and often tracing their family back to people groups who have lived in the Arabian peninsula and surrounding regions throughout history. ↩
- In the same manner, Paul talks in Galatians 1:15-17 about being called to Arabia, and some think that the Magi who blessed the Christ-child might have Arabian. Regardless, it is clear that God cares about the descendants of Ishmael, and wishes to extend the offer of salvation to them. All glory to God for his gift! ↩